Webinars and Office Hours

[Webinar] Verblio's 2022 Content Survey Results

Cierra Loflin
September 22, 2022

Welcome to the live presentation of Verblio's 2022 Content Survey Results, brought to you by Ryan Sargent, Director of Content Marketing at Verblio. Verblio is a content platform that provides content at high volumes (we're talking thousands of articles at once) to companies that need to scale fast.

Verblio surveyed over 400 agencies, in-house content marketers, and freelancers to get the results of this report. This project took the team over 6 months from initial surveys to completion, but Ryan says the hard work was worth it.

Here's a quick look at their findings: 

  • Most agencies that make more than 75% of revenue from content have more than 10 employees
  • More agencies are outsourcing their content production compared to previous years
  • Most in-house teams (53%) outsource from a combination of content platforms like Verblio, full service agencies, and freelancers
  • Larger organizations (29%) see content teams as an in-house agency or function of the brand
  • Smaller organizations (38%) see content teams more as a growth function
  • The hardest part of creating content is finding subject matter expertise, according to 28% of respondents

Watch the recorded webinar or read the (edited) transcript below and follow along with the digital survey.


Jimmy 0:02

Hey everybody, and welcome. Really excited for this webinar featuring our 2022 Title Sponsor Verblio. They've been an amazing partner to Superpath. So much of the the work that we do together helps keep the Slack community thriving and free for everybody, to be very frank. They've been just an amazing partner. I'm so glad to work with them. Today we have Ryan Sergeant, their director of content marketing here to talk through their recent digital content report. There is a ton of really interesting data in this report. Ryan's gonna run through all of it. Would really encourage folks to leave questions in the chat. Feel free to, uh, post them as we're going and, and I'll, uh, queue them up for Ryan as we go. I think the more contextual, the better. I will also drop a link in the chat here so that you can follow along if you'd like. Ryan, I'm gonna pass it over to you to intro yourself. I would love to know a little bit about you, about Verblio too. Give us the elevator pitch, What is Verblio? And then, um, if you could just set the table a little bit on this report before we dive in, kind of the, the who, what, why, uh, behind, uh, your effort here, which I know was a big one.

Ryan 1:18

Yeah. Thanks for having us. This is awesome. Jimmy has also been a wonderful partner to Verblio and to me personally. So I think all of those feelings are, are very mutual. My name's Ryan. I'm a recovering musician, turned content marketer. I lead the content marketing team at Verblio. Verblio is the world's friendliest content creation platform, which is a catchy marketing way of saying that we are a content creation marketplace. Uh, we connect 3,000 plus writers with everyone from agencies to startups to SMBs to make sure that they get the content they need. We specialize in written content and content at scale. So if, if you're go to market strategy needs thousands of pieces of content to rank in order to be effective, come say hi. We'd love to chat.

Jimmy 2:11

Awesome. That's awesome. For what it's worth, I've chatted with a few folks who have used the, the high volume service that you guys provide and have great things to say about it. Not just the quality, but how quickly everything was able to get done, which is, uh, pretty significant constraint. Like if you're, I don't know, a franchise with thousands of locations, or you need kind of targeted pages for whatever, a thousand different cities or a thousand different personas or whatever. Really cool way to do that. So sorry to interrupt, but I think very cool service and I would encourage folks to check it out if that's something that you need.

Ryan 2:42

Well, as, as I think we'll see in the report as, as someone who's worked in house for my entire marketing career, it's something, it's a form of outsourcing content that I hadn't even really considered until I started working here that this could be so effective. So, I've kind of become a convert along the way. Also, hello from Denver. Finally fall has fallen, it feels like. So Colorado Pride!

Jimmy 3:06

Oops, sorry for a second. Sorry, Ryan, you froze for a second. You're back though.

Ryan 3:11

Okay, good, good. A little intro on this, on this project verbally has produced a, uh, kind of state of agencies and agency content survey for a couple years. And this year we decided to go a lot bigger. We decided to expand, uh, the, the scope of the survey to incorporate all digital content freelancers in house agencies. Uh, everyone we surveyed more than 400 content marketers. My hope with this kind of chat webinar is that I can give you some behind the scenes info, tell you a little bit of what the team and I went through to produce this thing. I'm pretty proud of it. It was a ton of work. We learned a lot. One of the things we learned right off the bat was doing giant content projects, gathering your own data, visualizing that data, turning it into something special is really hard and really rewarding. So from one content marketer to others, your life does not have to be 600 word posts that are based on keyword gap analysis. There is a better way do stuff like this. It's so worth it, even if you have some bad days along the way.

Jimmy 4:27

Quick question. The data analysis, did you do that yourself or just someone else on the team who, who does the data piece?

Ryan 4:34

We did. I relearned everything I'd forgotten about pivot tables.

Jimmy 4:37

Nice. That's great. That's great. Really valuable skill. Like every year when we do our salary report, I'm like, it pushes me to like my Excel limits. I think it's a pretty good skill for content marketers to be flexing on a regular basis.

Ryan 4:52

Yeah, it's amazing how much happier I feel looking at a spreadsheet than I did six months ago.

Jimmy 4:57

So that's awesome. 

Ryan 5:00

That was a great takeaway. And then there were these little things that kept cropping up that I wanna make sure I don't forget to mention, like, very first question on the survey was, do you work in an agency? Do you work on an in-house content team or you a freelancer? In my mind I was like, because we're going to divvy up the report that way, right? Like that's, now we have a built in structure, we're gonna, Hey, we have H twos. Those are not the h twos in the report. Um, <laugh>, we, we ended up coming up with a much better way to do that, that kind of traced some threads all the way through the data, looked at some narratives. And so this stuff will change when you're working on something this big and and embrace that would would be another kind of content marketing takeaway that, that I would mention for everyone.

Jimmy 5:41

Yeah, that's a great point. That's a great point.

Jimmy 5:49

So let's jump right in. If you wanna share your screen and just start hitting some of the key points in this report, I'll definitely be, be popping in with questions for you and again, would encourage people to use the chat. Um, Livestorm has a questions feature and a chat feature. Feel free to just stick in the chat feature. I'll monitor both, but the chat is a little easier to keep track of. Um, so please, please drop your questions in there for Ryan, and, and we'll get 'em answered for you.

Ryan 6:14

And for what it's worth, in an attempt to not always be looking off to the side, uh, I'm going to not be able to look at the chat while I'm scrolling, so yell at me or something.

Jimmy 6:25


Ryan 6:27

So this is the report again, I think we've all been to way too many webinars that are a brilliant 20 minute sales enablement presentation, and that's not what this is. I literally wanna scroll through the report and just talk to you about it, graph by graph, piece by piece. Ask questions, by all means, jump in at any time. So here we go. These are the threads that we ended up kind of tracing through the data instead of looking at agencies versus in-house versus freelance all the way through. And there were some trends and that had to do with those teams and team structure things, but looking at challenges and looking at what's coming next in the future ended up being far more powerful. And as a nice bonus, this means that you don't just scroll right down to the part that applies to you and only read that section, you actually spend some more time on page. So this is something that we can like even measure as content marketers, right, by looking at time on page and looking at, at scrolling data and stuff like that. So, um, section one teams trends, kind of what are we doing today? So, um, agencies are still finding content profitable. This is something that we've seen in our report for three years in a row. It, it feels pretty obvious or a pretty common sense, I think. And it's nice to see that reflected in the data that that creating content is profitable for marketing agencies. This, um, and as some somebody who's worked in house, it's, it's a nice reminder that the content works not just because I think it works, but, but quite literally because other marketers are using it as a revenue stream. Um, so it's three quarters is certainly statistically significant on that one.

Ryan 8:05

Hw much of the revenue is coming from content? Well, that depends. The team and I were especially concerned that 21% of agency folks who answer the survey don't know how much revenue their agency makes. Um, that's something you probably wanna know. Uh, and if you don't, I bet you can find out. So, um, <laugh> that there's that one to call out, it's clear that for some agencies revenue is, is a nice add-on, right? It's, it's something that they can do, but maybe isn't the bread and butter. And then there are other agencies, this more than three quarters of revenue, that content is like what they do. Like they, they are a content agency first and foremost. Um, and, and that's very exciting. And so then using our newly rediscovered, uh, pivot table skills, we, we took a, a deeper dive. And it turns out that the agencies that make most of their money from content are big ones. Um, two thirds of the agencies in that bar showing more than 75% of revenue from content have more than 10 employees. So if, if you're a tiny agency, content might require so many resources that it's, it's tough to turn into your, um, your cash cow. Whereas a big agency that has lots of resources can really lean in on content. Um, I'm gonna pause, pause there.

Jimmy 9:27

Yeah. I find that to be super interesting. I, I'm wondering, I want, well, I guess I have a number of questions. One, I'm wondering where mostly the revenue comes from for those smaller agencies, but then two, I'm wondering what it is about that tipping point of 10 or more people where content starts to make more sense. And maybe it is just what you said, like it's just content's a heavy lift.

Ryan 9:48

Uh, it's also possible that the tipping point was our arbitrarily chosen buckets of fewer than three employees, three to five, five to 10, and 10 to 25, et cetera. So

Jimmy 9:58

I think that makes sense, though. Like, I think I would've organized it the same way just based on like the, the agency folks that I know and how, like, how the companies are structured, how many people they have.

Jimmy 10:13

Now I know you're gonna, we're gonna talk more about outsourcing. I feel like that's probably a key thing too. Like at a certain point, yeah, an agency with 10 or more people is generating this, you know, I would imagine like fairly healthy revenue then you, it's probably easier at that point to have a discussion about like, okay, content is a great service, we should offer our clients, but who should do it?

Ryan 10:34

Yeah. And that's a perfect segue. This is, this is the next section. How much of the content does the agency produce in house? And we're, we took a look at this year over year. This is really cool. To me, this is one of the coolest graphs in the whole thing because the number of agencies that produce all of their content in house, that is without freelancers, marketplaces, any outside help

Ryan 10:56

is dropping year over year. Fantastic. And the number of agencies that are using some kind of a hybrid model, right? They're producing some of it in house and then outsourcing some of their content production is growing year over year. As we'll see, demand for content is also growing. And so I think those two go together.

Jimmy 11:17

Hmm. That's interesting. The first thing I think when I see that is what the quote unquote great resignation, like how that may factor into this. Like, there's just a lot of really talented content marketers who, who want to work for themselves these days. Whether that means kind of solo freelancer or start building up a team of subcontractors or even a small agency. Like, there's just a lot more people who are offering this, uh, as individuals, which maybe makes it, you know, I wonder some of those people maybe worked at those agencies left to become freelance, and now that was our first customer or something like that.

Ryan 11:54

That's a use case that I hadn't considered that. So maybe this is somebody who worked at the agency, became a freelancer, immediately had a first customer. That's very plausible like that that passes the gut check for me.

Jimmy 12:07

Yeah, it's cool though. This seems to me like a positive trend to actually.

Ryan 12:12

Me too. We've certainly seen this like separation of content creation going from primarily in-house to now primarily outsourced, but it just, from the in-house perspective, it frees up the inhouse team to do a lot of other things, like to keep the content machine moving, to keep the quality high while you let the people who specialize, you know, the sort of the high level individual contributors who really want to write and can go deep on it to just go and do their thing.

Ryan 12:36

Yeah. And this, this graph seems to be great news for freelancers, right? The agencies want to work with you.

Jimmy 12:41

Yeah, totally.

Ryan 12:45

Of course we looked at how that outsourcing takes place. Again, hybrid combination is a really big piece of this puzzle. Only only half or so work exclusively with freelancers. This huge chunk of agencies work with content marketplaces like Verblio and freelancers. It's like the, this one size fits all approach seems to be in the past. And, and using the right tool for the job seems to be much more important these days.

Jimmy 13:14

That's very interesting.

Ryan 13:17

Then we look at how many pieces of content agencies are producing per month per client, also growing. As we'll see in some expert commentary hearing in a second that we included in the report, this may be because the type of content is changing where agencies are producing fewer eBooks on behalf of clients and more social media posts, which would naturally, for example, drive this data to trend this direction. But at the same time, I think agencies are leaning in on content. Like you take all these graphs and, and put 'em together into one conclusion, and it's agencies are investing in content and that's great for us.

Jimmy 13:56

So I just dropped a question in the chat for people. I'd just be curious of the folks who are here, how much content do you produce per client per month? Or if you're in house, how much content are you producing in house? So if you're here, drop a note in the chat about that.

Ryan 14:26

So anecdotally we also heard content is still a tough sell for agencies. It's not necessarily a slam dunk or something that every client is gonna ask for. But I don't think that cancels out the conclusions we saw earlier that, that agencies are investing in content. So, um, we broke this report up to try to keep it interesting. We asked some open ended questions as opposed to these very qualitative or quantitative questions we've been talking about so far. So we got some great quotes in here. Tips for planning and production. These are all the kinds of things you see in the Superpath Slack all the time. But it was it was nice to see consistency here, like as a field we're pretty aligned on what's important. Work with subject mattered experts, no fluff, be ruthless with an editorial team, build out a clear strategy and use the content to focus on that. There was such consistency here, it was very reassuring for me, both one, that I'm not like totally off on an island by myself doing something weird. And also that content marketing is an established field and we've got some best practices for the right reasons. And we'll see that we have some other sections that are anecdotes like this and further down.

Jimmy 15:45

Cool. In the chat right now, Ryan, people are definitely validating what you were saying in terms of the volume of content. It seems like most people are somewhere between four to eight articles a month roughly.

Ryan 16:01

Cool. So that goes with the data here then.

Ryan 16:07

So in in-house teams are producing roughly similar amounts of content per month as the agencies were producing per client. The 15% of you that are producing 20 plus pieces of content per month, props, and also like don't OD on the energy drinks. I don't know how you're doing 20 plus pieces of content per month. That sounds absurd. That's insane. Congratulations.

Ryan 16:37

Similarly, the 2% of you that aren't producing content per month, but are still taking a content marketing survey as an in-house marketer, I'm curious, what, what are you doing? This is the beauty of surveys like this. Most folks are building a similar amount of content as the agencies are per client. That was interesting to me. I, I did kind of think to myself that in-house marketers might be producing more content because than an agency produces for a single client, right? Because as an in-house marketer, you're totally focused on this one company.

Ryan 17:13

So we use that as a starting place and then we went the same direction. How much content are the in-house folks building in house? And it turns out in-house marketing teams tend to produce a lot of their content in-house, but also only half of them are producing three quarters of it. This hybrid model continues to be totally normal in the sense that even in-house marketing teams are using outside resources to help them with their content production. And how do they do it? Just like for agencies, it's not a one size fits all solution.

There's some combination of freelancers, agencies, content platforms like Verblio, these things need to work in tandem and work at the right times in the right ways. And to be honest, not to shamelessly plug Verblio here, but that's something we see all the time. There are pieces of content production that Verblio is very good at as a product or service. And there are things that we're not great at. 3000 word thought leadership pieces are not what I would recommend you go to Verblio for. That content and scale stuff that I was talking about earlier, thousands of pieces of content to support a go to market strategy. That is something we can do that one freelancer clearly can't, right? You can't expect even a team of freelancers to produce thousands of pieces of content on command. So figuring out which tool you need for the job is a really critical part of running this in-house strategy about what you build yourself, what you outsource, when do you outsource, how do you outsource, all of that stuff. It's gotta be the right tool for your, your situation in that moment.

Jimmy 18:55

Right. Jessica asked, what's the difference between a content platform and a content agency?

Ryan 19:02

So I would say a content platform is something more like a marketplace where there are lots of potential freelancers and you're outsourcing the content. Not blind per se, but, for example with Verblio, you throw a brief out there and any writer on the platform can come pick it up. You're not contracting a specific person. Whereas an agency would be something like Animalz where you're going to one specific team of people that runs their own agency and say, I want you to do my content. And that agency then produces said content. Often they produce the strategy, they they track the success for you. It's a much more integrated or kind of in depth approach in general. I'd say.

Jimmy 20:00

Is it fair to say that platforms work best when you already have a strong understanding of your strategy and it's time to just create content? Versus a full service agency who's potentially evolve from the very beginning of like, Hey, we should do content, what should we do?

Ryan 20:15

Yes, that's absolutely correct. The similar situation would be if an SMB comes to Verblio and and says, so we want words on our website, that's gonna be a pretty rough starting place with a platform.

Jimmy 20:33

Got it. That makes sense. That was a good question, Jessica.

Ryan 20:48

Anyway, so this model is very normal. It turns out it doesn't matter whether you're at an agency or in house, whatever your content marketing gig, you're gonna need to outsource some content. And the way you outsource that content probably varies depending on the project.

Ryan 21:05

Unless you're part of this 35% that just finds your dream freelancer. I know people in that position, right? They've been working with the same freelancers for years. They're like, I trust these four people with my job. That's how we're gonna do it. I think that's an important use case, but in general we're mixing and matching.

Jimmy 21:26

Yeah. I'm gonna post a link in the chat right now. My business partner Walter Chen sent me an article years ago about the importance of vendor management as a career skill. I think it's hugely underrated how valuable you are if you understand how to source, vet and manage vendors, whether those are freelancers, agencies or platforms, it's a soft skill that no one is gonna teach you and that no one really talks about.

But all high level content people end up doing this. And if you can do it well, you basically 10x the potential output of your team, right? Like if you're good at hiring, you can hire one person or two people a year who can each write one article a week. But if you can bring on a freelancer or a platform that could create dozens or hundreds, then your output is unbelievably high but you're still the kind of a single point of contact there.

Ryan 22:26

Vendor management is something that I learned very much as a trial by fire thing working at startups and in retrospect, I'm really surprised that was never part of training because it's so valuable. I wonder if maybe this is a CXL course one day.

Jimmy 22:48

There’s a Superpath course on vendor management.

Ryan 22:50

<laugh>. Yeah, there you go. So this question was in the survey because Jimmy suggested it. Which of the following best describes her house content team? This was a fascinating one for me. I've answered this question very differently at different companies. And I think it's really telling that like some in-house content teams are seen as part of a growth team. Some are seen as like this in-house creative agency thing, like that's like designed to be siloed and separate and a part, others are seen as part of a brand team because content is a brand function as opposed to a growth function. I've never seen this question quantified in this way and I thought the results were really fascinating. We tabled this thing and we found that the larger the organization, the more likely the in-house agency answer was the response.

Jimmy 23:50

That's fascinating.

Ryan 23:52

I was trying to put that together in my head and I kept thinking of the way that startups are always hyper-focused on growth. And so the content team at a small startup where the whole marketing team is smaller is a growth function. And at giant corporations, you know, Fortune 100 companies, the content team is an in house agency because it's just completely separate thing. So 29%, four out of five of those folks are on a marketing team that has more than 25 people. So really big marketing teams.

Jimmy 24:37

That's so interesting. I can also imagine that as companies become larger, their tolerance for risk decreases significantly. So we're on a smaller team, someone from the product marketing team might just, you know, spin up a product update and post it on the blog. That won't happen in a larger company because someone's boss's boss will say, you know, it needs to adhere to all of our brand guidelines. Uh, you know, the content team is in charge of that type of thing. We sort of have to run everything through them. But the next thing you know, the people on other teams who maybe would write at a smaller company don't. So they go to the content team and request that someone on the content team do it. I would say in general, this is, I used to think of this as a, as a negative thing. I don't really think of it that way any longer. It's because it's just such a natural trend as companies grow, but I've also never seen it quantified in this way. It makes so much sense. Um, and potentially for particularly like if you're leading a content team at a company that's growing quickly, um, something to be very mindful of if that's the direction you want to go or it's something that you want to deliberately avoid in favor of kind sticking with that, uh, the focus on growth.

Ryan 25:51

Yeah, I imagine that there's an inflection point somewhere that we, we didn't necessarily manage to get data on in terms of like, how big does is the marketing team when this shifts? Um, that probably requires a, an interview with some of these folks to be honest. But like, is it, is it 12 people? Is it, is it higher number 12 that the marketing team starts to think, think of content as a brand function instead of a growth function? I, I don't know. Um, but so kudos to Jimmy. This question would've not been in the survey, uh, had we not gone and asked. So, um, thank you. Cool. I

Jimmy 26:24

Love it really that, that's really interesting data. Really interesting data. Um, we'll I'm gonna, we'll probably share some of this stuff afterwards and we're gonna publish a blog post and recording, but I may highlight a couple of these data points I find to be especially interesting. I probably point to that as one that I'm like just personally very, very intrigued by.

Ryan 26:44

Um, and then also it's kind of spread throughout this thing. We've got some, some commentary from, from experts that we know, uh, friends of ours, um, influencers for lack of a better word. Um, and, uh, so again, content marketer to content marketers. Uh, this is a really important piece of, of the, the content. It was way easier to get than we thought it was gonna be. Turns out people like giving you quotes on your stuff and um, it also gives you an excuse to pastor them to share, share your content on social, and it, it breaks the thing up. Now, it, you know, this, this isn't just like never ending series of graphs now. Um, and it, it adds some social proof right here on the page. So, uh, if you're producing a report like this, highly recommend the expert commentary. It is not as painful as you think. I, Paul, our, our head of marketing was, I'm gonna just like out him here. He was very nervous about emailing Andy Cina and it went very well. So, um,

Jimmy 27:38

Andy's such a nice guy.

Ryan 27:41

Yeah. And most people are, it turns out. Yeah,

Jimmy 27:44


Ryan 27:45

Uh, yeah. I, I won't, I won't read the quotes, by all means. Come, come check it out if you're interested in the quotes. Um, but like, um, this was a really key piece of building the content.

Ryan 27:56

Our jobs are getting harder. This was, this was a thread that kept popping up, um, in, in part because we just asked what's hard and there were some really consistent patterns. Um, turns out subject matter knowledge is, is the hardest part of content marketing. Um, and for agencies there's this big wrinkle of managing client expectations or, or client budget. Um, but as we'll see for the in-house folks that the audience knowledge, the, the industry knowledge that the subject matter expertise that was, that was so big. Um, and so I'm, I'm not surprised this was the, this was the high highest thing. I'm kind of almost glad this, this was the hardest thing. I think I'd be concerned if content marketers found, you know, having an expert deep immersive knowledge of every industry to be easy <laugh>. So, so no surprises here, but, but nice to have it on paper.

Jimmy 28:53

Very interesting. I'm also curious about the second point. They're managing client expectations.

Ryan 28:58

Yeah. You have some experience with that, right, Jimmy?

Jimmy 29:01

Yeah, I mean, I feel like, well we certainly through Animalz, like I guess any agency experience is this like, you know, starting from a, starting from a sales call and sort of getting to know the client and understanding it. Like things change so frequently, at least in my experience with agency client relationships, you know, like so often the thing you start with is not the thing you're working on three months later, which is not the thing you're working on another three months down the road. And, um, I don't think that that's necessarily unique to content marketing. I think a lot of those things are driven by like, sort of macro trends, you know, like sort of what's going on on in the broader economy, uh, what is sort of the sentiment of folks in that industry. Um, additionally, like I find that content strategy changes often, like more frequently than it probably should, which, um, changes the way that agencies need to serve their clients. There's just a lot. I mean, I guess as anybody knows, like to, to do well as an agency, you have to be really, really good at account management. And so often that's like keeping like a very, very, very close pulse on what's going on with each individual client so that you can understand their expectations. Cuz it's hard to meet him when you don't know what they are, but they change. Agencies are a tough business. There's no question about that. Really a challenging business.

Ryan 30:22

Yeah. We, we also asked about the hard parts of outsourcing content creation, right? We, we established earlier, lots of folks outsource and they do it in different ways, and it turns out keeping things that are authentic or, or industry, that industry knowledge piece, that's the hard part of outsourcing content creation too. Um, a as someone who works at a place where content is created, um, getting content for a good price and getting content quickly, uh, we're nice and low, that feels good. Um, outsourcing content is not, not hard, um, is what, what that, what that says to me. But getting that authentic content is just gonna continue to be the, the sticky spot.

Jimmy 31:01

That's interesting. I, one quick takeaway I have from that is if there's any freelancers on this call, your ability to niche down makes you quite valuable. You know, I think that, I think that the days of being like a B2B SAS content marketer are mostly over, I think that that's not really gonna be enough any longer. You have to be a sort of an industry specific content marketer. We actually have a blog post on the Superpath blog recently about this from a freelancer named Dom Kent who wrote about his experience niching down. And I'll post that in the chat. But, um, uh, yeah, I find that that also sort of speaks to your, the, the, the last graph we looked at about, um, the difficulty of subject matter expertise. Basically, the deeper you go, the better you know the subject matter, the easier it is gonna be to get good clients and deliver good work to them.

Ryan 31:49

It, it's the same for inhouse. Um, yeah, I, in our, in our retro, by the way, if you do a piece of content like this, have a retro let the healing begin as a team, sit down in a room and talk about what went well and what didn't go well. Um, we, we talked about, actually, this was one of the questions where like, is high quality content by definition content that's specific to industry and audience? Like, are, are the first two bars here too similar? Did we need to word this question differently? Um, that was something that came up.

Ryan 32:21

They felt very different to me when I wrote the question, but that was also months ago. So, um, now as I'm reading it again, that, that calls in the question all kinds of things. I, the, for me, this is, this is part of the same, same narrative, right? Authenticity is really hard. And it doesn't matter if you're an agency, if you're outsourcing content, if you're working in house, whoever you are, if you build content, industry knowledge is hard. Um, and it's worth investing in because it's, it's something that makes your content better.

Ryan 32:53

Um, and we, we actually asked the, the Verblio sales team, like, is this, does this line up for you? Is this something that, that you think, think resonates? And, and they slacked us back literal quotes from conversations like how important this is when you're outsourcing content. So, um,

Jimmy 33:12

Yeah, that's so interesting,

Ryan 33:15

Freelancer. Pretty interesting.

Jimmy 33:15

For Verblio, I would just in the sense that, um, like as a platform, you're pretty well positioned to serve many industries.

Ryan 33:22

Yeah. And, and we vet writers, uh, and, and bucket them by industry, uh, for that reason. So, um,

Ryan 33:32

well, freelancers didn't, didn't want you all to, to be left out. Uh, so what's the hard part for, for freelancers? It's the same thing. Um, the, what I thought was interesting here is that freelancers were more divided than agencies or in-house folks in terms of what was hard, right? These, these bars are much closer together, much more consistent. And getting a good brief is something that is hard for freelancers. And it, it's not surprising to me that in-house folks obviously didn't really think about that, but this is like a critical piece of the puzzle. Like if you, if you're trying to outsource content and you don't submit a killer brief, you're not gonna get great content back out. Um, and, and it's, it's like, it's here in like numbers in writing on the graph. Uh, you gotta give freelancers something good to work with on the front end. It.

Jimmy 34:22

Um, I find this, I find this try to be very interesting because there's not like a fat head and a long tail. It's just a fat head, you know, like there's these couple like really key problems. I'm sure if, you know, I'm sure if you were to give people um, 50 options, there would be a long tail, but it just seems like so many people struggle with these exact same problems.

Ryan 34:43

And for, for what it's worth, logistics here means invoicing, um, scheduling a kickoff call, stuff like that.

Jimmy 34:52

Yeah. Yeah, that makes sense. That's interesting. There's a, for, for in-house people, there's also like, there, there's a way to be a great client too, you know what I mean? Like it's, you'll see a lot of stuff out there about how to manage accounts and be a good freelancer and things like that. But you know, that responsibility definitely lies on, on the, the team that hires these people to, uh, set them up for success.

Ryan 35:17


Ryan 35:20

Um, more, more quotes from folks who took the survey, uh, including a bunch of Superpath folks. Um, again, so pleased to see that this was consistent.

Ryan 35:32

Um, and

Ryan 35:36

Th this, this was actually one of my favorite quotes in the whole thing. Quality content doesn't mean beautifully written. That like, there is this hard bar for things like grammar. Like you can't, you must meet these expectations, but really high quality content doesn't necessarily mean making the writing more eloquent as much as providing information. Um, and so, so there was, anyway, there's great nuggets in here. I encourage everybody to, to go check this stuff out. Um, what's working for, for content still blog posts and landing pages, like the, the rise of the ebook is, is not coming. We, we aren't, uh, you know, six months away from all of us doing nothing but white papers. So, um, I I was surprised video wasn't higher just because we talk so much about video as content marketers, how important it is. But I, I think at the end of the day, like videos are still really hard to build and they're hard to build. Well, yeah. And so many of us come from writing backgrounds and when the thing that we're good at is also efficient, we're, we're gonna default there. Um, and, and that leads to blog posts being on top again. Uh, this is, that's super blog posts have been on top for, for all three years of, of our survey for this.

Jimmy 36:49

Hmm. That's really interesting. The, uh, a quick note on the video thing. I find that to be fascinating. Like certainly in our Slack group we see some talk about video and audio, like podcasting and it, it feels like it's kind of generally under the category of content marketing, but to some degree the, the, the skill set of like how to provide information, how to tell a story is the same. But I, I do wonder if people bump into, um, kind of technical challenges, like how do you actually do it? Like how do you operate the camera? How do you edit the audio? What tools do you need to clean it up, publish it, like it, all that stuff is really different, even if kind of the core, the core thing there creating the content is, is roughly the same. Um, and actually Ryan, quick question. Beyond this, do you know how this is separated between B2B and B2C?

Ryan 37:38

We don't. That was, uh, I think a big question that we, we didn't get on the survey. We didn't think about it. And, and so that was also in our retro that a B2C B2B question is gonna be really important for next year. Um, it's another layer for all those pivot tables that, that may, may slip this out really well. ‘Cause  if that 10% of social media posts are all B2C and all the videos are B2B, for example, like that would, that would really change the graph.

Jimmy 38:03

Right? Right.

Ryan 38:08

Um, we also talked distribution, um, I'm skimming by the words cuz I'm mostly saying them. Um, this is, this is also I think not, not surprising. We build content that we put it on social media and we send emails like this is, this is what we do. Um, and uh, mixed reactions to the link buying. Like, I think we had some, some folks who were surprised that it generated any responses at all. Like, how dare you purchase a link in 2022? And then other people were like, Oh, wow, I thought that would be higher. So, um, that was, that was kind of the, the question mark bar here. Also, the 4% of you that said, uh, I don't think any promotion is needed. Um, maybe those are the, there's overlap there with the people who are, say they're content marketers, but also produce no content. So <laugh>, um, uh, that's, that one was a, a tricky one.

Ryan 39:09

Um, the effectiveness of these I think is something we always struggle with, right? Like distribution is hard and to some extent we're just going back to the same well over and over again. And I keep wondering to myself like, is there, is there a better way on, on distribution or, or is it a matter of like jumping through the hoops and doing the thing and and doing it well and thoughtfully and over time you, you, you build cumulative results with it. Um, yeah,

Jimmy 39:38

I find this to be, there's,

Ryan 39:39

That's not here, right? Like, is is there just something we should be doing that that isn't on this list?

Jimmy 39:44

Right? Yeah. I find this to be super fascinating because social and email are too like kind of semi own channels just in the sense that like, you can build followings and build lists. So like, I like to say promotion is hard, Distribution is easy. Meaning like, if you invest the time to build the newsletter list and build the Twitter following the LinkedIn following et cetera, then when it comes time to distribute, you have a place to send it. You know, versus yeah, if you don't have those things, then you know, now you're buying links, <laugh>, you know, or you right. Doing pulled outreach, which, you know, in some cases, like that's what you need to get things kicked started. Um, I'm curious too about buying links if that's how exactly that happens. Like I wonder if some agencies may offer like a guest posting thing as an add on to a content program, you know, or if people are, are literally just paying cash for links.

Ryan 40:34

Yeah, I, I don't know what that looks like these days to be honest. Like

Jimmy 40:39

Yeah, me either

Ryan 40:40

You've worked with agencies in terms of like a link building campaign type thing, but, um, that's, that's very, I think that's different than a straight up like buy a back link.

Jimmy 40:50

Yeah, we don't, we have a follow up question, the chat, which, um, maybe too deep to go into, um, in this conversation. But Mia asked any best practices for distributing on social? I found the social algorithms tricky to navigate since they want to keep people on the platform.

Ryan 41:07

I, I think Amanda Natividad is onto something with this whole like zero click content, native content. You can, you can distribute your content without generating a click, without, without asking people to leave the platform. Um, and, and I think that's the direction that a lot of us are headed. Certainly the direction I'm headed, I'm giving you this content on a webinar with no expectation that you actually visit this page on the internet. Um, so that, that's a thing like building a slide deck to, to distribute on LinkedIn for example, is, is is a great one there. Um, it's, it's hard. I I don't, I'm in the same boat as everybody else on, on that one. Social continues to be to be tricky.

Jimmy 41:50

Yeah, I just dropped a link to Amanda Natividad's post on zero click content. Um, and would recommend that. That's a great point, Ryan.

Ryan 42:00

Uh, okay, so now quality, we, we talked a little bit about quality before. How do you measure the quality of, of, of your content? Um, I was surprised that engagement was so far ahead of conversions. Um, and then we got in that pivot table, it turns out conversions are far more, uh, likely to be in-house folks and freelancers and agencies were more likely to say engagement. Ah,

Jimmy 42:25

Ah, that's interesting.

Ryan 42:27


Ryan 42:29

I, I also realize, I, so I've been asking folks like, like Jimmy on, on, on a podcast, um, you know, how do you measure success? And I keep hearing from, from, from guests that it's like, this is about staying close to the money is is how Tommy Walker put it. And um, Jimmy said MQL and, and like maybe I'm being wired to think conversions. And that was why I assumed it would be the, the first answer here. Um, I think, I'm trying to remember if, if this was you, Jimmy, or, or this was someone else that, that said this. Sure don't. Sure. Looks like maybe

Ryan 43:06

agencies and freelancers are looking at engagement because they, they aren't able to look at conversions, right? That's not data they have access to or are encouraged to have access to. Um, and so therefore they're, they're kind of defaulting to engagement because that at least shows that the post was successful by some measure. Um, sure.

Jimmy 43:23

Yeah, that makes sense, real challenge for agencies in that regard. Yeah, because a lot of it, you know, like the, the success of the engagement with the client may ultimately come down to like, are they happy? You know, which is almost impossible to quantify. Um, but probably goes back to the point about setting the right expectations and meeting them, you know, uh, making sure that your sales team is talking about the same things as your account management team. So you don't have one party talking about driving conversions and another party talking about, you know, page views or whatever.

Ryan 43:57

I, I was relieved to see that reach was low. Like, yeah, that's interesting. I'm glad that we're now in a spot where content marketers agree. The number of people who who see your content isn't as important as the number of people who engage with it or give you information in return. Um, the qualitative data piece is, is fascinating to me. Like, I think this is coming from my background as a, as a musician, as like a, like a purple performer and like creator that if you ask a jazz musician to measure the quality of the jazz, right, you're gonna get a qualitative answer. And so, um, there's part of that answer that'll always be near and dear to my heart. I I guess I, maybe I thought that one might be a little higher.

Jimmy 44:35

Yeah, that's, that's interesting. I like that actually though, I find that, uh, like one of the things that we look at for our own content marketing is just the idea that a rising tide lifts all ships, you know, and it's relatively easy. Like if you, if you believe content is sometimes a self-fulfilling prophecy, like if you believe it's gonna work, it, it probably will because you'll do the things necessary to make it work. And then as, as your numbers grow, like I always feel like a true north metric like MQL is a good one. Um, you should see that one number go up and then you should also see other numbers kinda surrounding it, page views, time on page, bounce rate, all these other things sort of like slowly going in the same direction as well.

Ryan 45:13


Ryan 45:16

Uh, some, so we asked experts to comment on these like three different sections. We, we lined up. Everyone wanted to comment on the part about like, what is successful and how do you distribute your content, which I found very, very fascinating. So we have way more expert commentary in this section than we do in the other sections. Um, some, some great stuff. Uh,

Ryan 45:37

yeah, I'm not gonna, I'm not gonna read, read the quotes, come if you do wanna visit our website, come check this out. Uh, there's some, some good stuff here. And then our last section to wrap up. We, we talked about the future. Um, it is, it is getting harder to build successful content. And some of that is what we just talked about with social. Some of that is Google between, I mean, two updates in the past month. Um, and, and some of it I think is that audiences are smarter than they used to be. Like the same way that that banner ads eventually just could not do the job anymore. Bad content doesn't do the job anymore and you can't, um, what I was interested to see here is that freelancers were so much more evenly split than agencies or, or in-house marketers. Um, and, and I'm, I would be very curious about the, the freelancers that said no, why do they, why do they think it's not harder to build successful content? Is it cuz they've just been building kick ass stuff forever and continue to build great stuff? Or, or is it, uh, is it something more complicated than that?

Jimmy 46:42

Yeah, that's very interesting. If there's any freelancers in here who wanna weigh in on that, please, please drop a note in the chat.

Ryan 46:48

Our, our other idea here was that maybe some portion of that 48% of freelancers, um, are the freelancers that don't have access to the stats. So they don't think it's getting harder to build successful content cause they don't know <laugh> we didn't offer and I don't know answer here, right? So, uh, this was, this was a true false question. So, um, that, that may be another wrinkle to the, to the data

Ryan 47:18

more, uh, more great quotes from folks who took the survey. Um, again, very consistent, like this has to be about humans, it has to be about the reader, it has to be be about audience. Uh, and, and again, like so nice to know that we're, we're all on the same team with with that stuff.

Ryan 47:39

The future seems bright, uh, for content marketers, demand for content is going up. Um, and admittedly, we, we did this survey, uh, late spring, early summer, um, but over the last year, have you had to cut casa stay competitive? No. Uh, I don't know if all of the LinkedIn layoff porn has changed this answer in, in the last few months, but, um, that, that may be, uh, that, that we are, that costs are now going to be cut in the next year that this was an optimistic time stamp. Um, but this is pretty overwhelming, right? This, it wasn't 50 50 and now months later the economy's gotten worse. This was, this was pretty definitive. So, um, also not like we didn't have any inflation on April. So, uh, yeah, more demand than ever. We're not cutting costs on content. Good things are happening. Um, thank you Jimmy, for the expert commentary. Um, Jimmy also asked about the B2B B2C thing. So, uh, not alone in pointing out that we need to ask that question. Um, yeah, that's, that's the report. Uh, and then because I'm the host of this podcast, I I will offer a shameless plug, Jimmy's episode is particularly good. It's live check out our, our podcast, the Content Bounce House. Um, this is my excuse to, uh, ask very smart people how to do my job better. So, um,

Jimmy 49:04

I'll put a link, I'll put a link to that in the chat also. Um, that's awesome. Thank you Ryan. I'm gonna, well, a few things. We have about 10 minutes, so if people have questions either about the data itself or because we're content marketers and you wanna have a meta conversation about the creation of this report, feel free to drop 'em. Um, and Ryan, I'll queue one up for you right now that a few people have been chatting about here, which is about kind of going back to the distribution thing, uh, and this idea of employee advocacy, basically meaning, like, it, it's clear that, um, uh, distribution performs better when individuals post on their own accounts rather than coming from a company account. It's, that's really difficult to scale. You have any thoughts on that or is there anything y'all do at Verblio?

Ryan 49:48

I totally agree, especially on LinkedIn. Um, we have just kind of commandeered the CEO's account and essentially Oh,

Jimmy 49:55


Ryan 49:55

Verblio uses the CEO's account on LinkedIn as our LinkedIn I would say. Um, and I, I know that for B2B in particular, that's becoming more and more common. Uh, yeah, in terms of the employee advocacy thing, that is also something we have, we have struggled with. Uh, it's, it's hard to get employees to care deeply about your industry unless they are also like participants in that industry, right? And, and I think that's, it is easy to get people to, to distribute employees that is like, to distribute content when, when they're really engaged and, and like deeply involved in the content. So the thing that, for example, we had no problem getting people to help us distribute was a video of Verblio employees that we were using as a recruiting tool. Like that was something everybody cared about. So everyone we, like, we sent, we posted it in Slack and said, Hey, please help share this. And like everyone, like 80% of the company posted it and um, you know, if we post a podcast episode about content marketing, I, how am I supposed to get the junior UX designer to care about that? Um, right, And not because her junior UX designer is anything but amazing and awesome. She is amazing and awesome, but also she's not a content marketer. Like she just wanna listen to that podcast. That's not, and that's not on her right? Like, right. So figuring out a way to connect the, the content you're building to the jobs or interests of the employees seems, seems pretty key. Contests also work. I, um, which is a wonderful idea. I am now able to read the chat, so

Jimmy 51:36

That's interesting. I've never thought of that. And so Post Beyond is a SAAS tool that sounds like it will help facilitate this for you. That's actually, that's fascinating. That's a great idea.

Jimmy 51:46


Jimmy 51:49

oh, sorry, I was gonna keep it on question. Ryan.

Ryan 51:51

Apple Watches and Kindles sound great. I would certainly, uh, that's legit. I would promote anything for an Apple watch.

Jimmy 51:56

Yeah, yeah. I thought you were gonna say like $5 Starbucks gift cards, but yeah. Apple watches, that's pretty nice.

Jimmy 52:03

Um, there is, there's a question, another one in here, Ryan from Christie who is there a correlation of content quality and ease of creation, If you have any more details or context there, Christie, feel free to drop in the chat. I'm wondering if what you means is that, um, some industries are simply easier to write for than others. Like it's really difficult to write about, you know, whatever, some like technical IT thing, while it's easier to write about, you know, sales

Ryan 52:31

That was so we didn't segment the survey by industry. We, we were worried that adding that question would both complicate the data and be like really hard to define like how many, how many potential answers of the question are we gonna put in there? Yeah. Um, and, and so in terms of like, are some industries easier to write for than others and therefore you get, you get more, um, you get more output, that's very possible. Um, I I'm more likely to, to say that, or, or I think it's more likely rather that that content quantity is coming because of potential distribution factors. If, if you're producing eBooks and hour long podcasts, you're gonna produce fewer raw pieces of content than if you're producing keyword gap analysis based, uh, short blog posts and social posts. Yeah. Um, that said, I, I'm personally in favor of less content and better content. Like, you know, like I said at the beginning, this was really hard to build. I'm so proud of the team. This was, this was a slog at times. And it was because we generated our own data, we analyzed our own data, we, we visualized it, we built this whole thing out and like

Ryan 53:46

it made for a stronger piece of content. It made for something I want to read that I'm excited to talk about. And the whole expert knowledge piece, when you're sharing actual data from real people, that point kind of covers itself. Um, and, and so one of our takeaways was, as hard as this was gathering your own data and presenting it is so valuable. And, um, we're getting a lot of mileage out of it, right? We've, we've got this thing on a page talking about it on a webinar. We've talked about it on a podcast. We've shared it on LinkedIn, like it's been in a couple emails already. We're using it as, uh, stuff to include in sponsored sponsorship, um, distribution angles including Superpath. So, um, the nice thing is we put all this work in and, and we're getting a lot of, of mileage out of it.

Jimmy 54:32

That's great. How long do you think it took you from, you know, the team sits down to say like, Okay, it's time to kick off the annual report to it's published on the blog.

Ryan 54:41

This was also a point of discussion during our retro, um, which is to say we, it, it took us quite a long time this year and, um, I mean we, we, I think we had technically kicked this thing off six months ago and yeah,

Jimmy 54:54

That sounds right.

Ryan 54:55

We, well, we identified some places where we could save a bunch of time, um, distri building the survey, distributing the survey, right? Getting, getting the 400 plus responses. That was a big deal. But the thing we're gonna do next time is we're gonna tee up a block for ourselves when the survey is finished, when we're, when we have the data and instead of kind of picking at it, we're gonna sprint. We're, we're gonna say, Okay, one week we're gonna live in these pivot tables and, and go nuts. Um, and I think we can, we're gonna end up saving a bunch of time there. We also have this beautiful retro board of, of all of the things we would do differently with visualization, with planning, with writing the thing. And so I think we're gonna end up saving a bunch of time getting it live, honestly, just because we're better at it second time around. Yeah,

Jimmy 55:44

That's great. Um, another question for you from Christie. She says, Did your team look at audio content podcasts, for example, in terms of success and effectiveness?

Ryan 55:53

Yes. Podcasts were, uh, so on the, on the graph that talked about like, um, what's the most successful type of content and blogs and, and landing pages were way up there. Uh, podcasts were a choice that got so few responses, we lumped them in with others. So the graph wasn't crazy long. Interesting. The 6% other incorporated

Ryan 56:13

podcasts, one other thing and the actual answer, other, um, I think of 400 responses, there were like three people that said podcast was the most effective piece of content.

Jimmy 56:26

That's so interesting. I would love to go so much deeper on that at some point. Like, I feel like the kinda like we talked about the audio and video thing, like it's sort of content. It's sort of not like who does this? You know, is there a group of podcast people sort of having the same conversation about text content? You know what I mean? Um, I find that to be just fascinating.

Ryan 56:47

Well, and I, we have gotten a ton of mileage out of, out of podcasts, but I would never, I would never say that the podcasts are more important than our written content. So, I mean, so verbally, we, we produce two podcasts now because we've had such success with them. Not, they don't both release every week or anything like that, but, um, there's, there's room to be successful in these other channels. Well without like giving up on, uh, prioritization of the most of like the most successful. Um, and that's another, another piece of like, that's where I'm borrowing Jimmy from you, this idea of like content lanes where we have like specific things we're focusing on every quarter and um, the podcast just continues to be one of those lanes cuz it, it has been successful for us.

Jimmy 57:33

Hmm. That's interesting. I like that. I feel like, I feel like audio and video almost, it just has to be part of your strategy these days. You know, how exactly that looks. Probably too contextual to offer some broad advice there. Um, but that's interesting. We'll have to follow up about that sometime. I would, I would love to know more about how Lyos got about creating podcasts, how you measure, how you run them, all that good stuff. Maybe we can, maybe we can share all that stuff in some other form later on. Yeah,

Ryan 57:59

That would be a blast. Love that.

Jimmy 58:02

Um, well cool. Just about out of time, Ryan, thank you so much for doing this. Thank you so much for yeah, taking six months to build this report, which is full of amazing data and for spending an hour talking it through with us. I think it's, it's just so helpful to like run through it live, you know, and sort of hear more of the story behind this. Um, we'll obviously publish the recording. We'll link to the report, we'll link to all the things and links that were mentioned in the chat today. Um, and then if people have additional questions is can they get in touch with you?

Ryan 58:30

Yeah, of course. By all means. I'm on Superpath, I'm on LinkedIn. Shoot me an email ryan [at] verblio.com. Um, yeah, love to hear from folks on, on this stuff.

Jimmy 58:40

Cool. Awesome. And shout out to Verblio again. Just been such an amazing partner to work with. Um, Ryan gave the pitch, check out things there that might be helpful to your team. Obviously outsourcing as we know now. It's very important. A lot of folks are doing it. Verblio is a great way to get that done. So check that out and thank you everybody for coming. That was a ton of fun.

Ryan 59:02

Awesome. Thank you.

Jimmy 59:04

Cool. Take care everybody.

Want more content from Verblio? Check out their Content Bounce House Podcast.

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